Pierced for Thaipusam
The Hindu festival of Thaipusam takes place in late January or early February along the streets of the historic section of Georgetown in Penang, Malaysia. Each year, to show their devotion to their God, Lord Muruga, and to offer thanksgiving for prayers answered, participants purify their minds and bodies for three months in advance by living in abstinence at a temple and eating a special vegetarian diet. Then on Thaipusam day, to the throbbing beat of drums and chanting, they have their backs and chests pierced with countless hooks and spikes forced through their cheeks and tongues. There is virtually no blood. The piercing is done at the Mariamman Temple in the Little India section of Georgetown. Some of these devotees carry heavy burdens called kavadis behind them or as colorful tall burdens on their shoulders. They walk and dance for thirteen kilometers in the searing sun, finally arriving at their destination, the hilltop Waterfall Temple, after nightfall.
By Barbara Paul
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